Leadership Mistake – Confusing Commanding With Leading

Society pushes us to confuse commanding with leading

When we think of famous leaders, we often think of military or political figures who appear (at least in their folklore) to be excellent commanders, exerting their positive effects through the ability to order people to do their bidding. This characterization is probably not as accurate as it might seem.

What is the difference between commanding and leading? Commanding relies on getting people to do things the “commander” wants, through the use of power, coercion and fear of punishment. Leading, however, is more subtle, and relies on the ability of the leader to inspire performance and desirable actions through reliance on trust, respect, confidence, inspiration, common goals and vision and so forth. They aren’t completely independent, cut they are quite different.

Particularly in today’s society, leaders cannot be commanders, because, at least outside of power based organizations (i.e. military), the relationships between leader and followers is less based on power and punishment, and based more on the choices of followers. Followers who choose to follow a leader are much more common, and they do not react well to being ordered about constantly.

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